As the train rumbled slowly down the tracks, apprehension, excitement even a touch of sadness at leaving London, filled Dave and Clara. Jim, however, felt nothing but fear. It was nearly a month now. A month since the holiday, since Aimee was killed, since he lost contact with his child. The nightmares he had suffered were almost unbearable, yet he had never complained, why would he, everyone else seemed to have lost someone close. Many of the soldiers he had come into contact with had families, and not all of them knew where they were, or whether they had even survived. The drive to do ones duty, to look at the bigger picture, to trust an officers plans, typically British, was massively important to them nonetheless. Jim knew these men would fight to the end, for all they had left was the task of defending their home. He had heard some stories of soldiers leaving, and going home. Some had never been heard from again, but others had returned, shocked, sickened and with a new disregard for their own personal safety. He couldn't allow himself to think of what they had found, of what he might find. He just told himself that Jess was OK, that Antosh was protecting her, and he would find them, never once considering what to do after that.
The slow movement had Dave's eyes dropping already. Clara had snuggled up close to him, and she appeared to be drifting too. The carriage had become quite warm, all those bodies had a definite effect, and the conversations had become quite sedate.
Jim was surprised at how anyone could sleep, but one thing he learned about Dave, is that the man could sleep through anything. He felt very reassured to have Dave around. He thought back to the hospital corridor, and how Dave had despatched the four zombies. He often doubted his own abilities at such things. He'd always tried to stay away from conflict, and preferred it when he could stay out of arguments.
Aimee had called him spineless once, and all he could do was explain that not every fight needs fighting. She hadn't understood, but he wouldn't change his feelings. Fight when you have to, not when you want to. This sounded like a good philosophy, until the zombies were present, and even then he still didn't feel able to fire his gun.
“Stop thinking”, Dave said aloud.
“I thought you were asleep!” Jim answered.
“I'm never that asleep mate.”
Jim laughed at this, he knew Dave appeared to be unconscious when sleeping. “Just a lot going on Dave. What happens if I get there and I can't find them?”
“Right mate lets get one thing clear, when we get there, we will find them, we might have to have a look around, but we will find, I promise.”
“OK” Jim said quietly, “I hope your right.”
“Course I am mate, nothing can stop a Manc when he's at home!” Dave was referring to a common nickname given to Mancunians.
His grin was infectious, and Jim couldn't help but join in.
“Do you two ever shut up?” Clara said.
“Wow, another pretend sleeper!” Jim said laughing.
Dave tapped her gently on her bottom, “We was having a moment then!, only male bonding allowed!”
She rubbed her bottom, pretending it had actually hurt.
“Oh OK then David, I shall remember that tonight then!”
“Awe baby........” but the resulting laughter drowned out the rest of his pleading.
The train had travelled to the edge of the station limits. The maze of inter connected tracks seemed to lead in every possible direction, but instead of crossing through the outer wall, the train stopped, then started travelling backward.
Dave jumped up so quickly, Clara nearly fell over.
“Sorry love!” he said quickly, “I have to see this”.
Jim joined him at the window, both of them trying to see what was happening.
The train travelled for a few hundred yards, then bumped into a long line of, what appeared to be cattle cars. A group of soldiers jumped down from the metal box behind their carriage, and ran towards the very end of the train.
“What are they doing?” Dave asked.
“I think we just found out where the supplies are.” Jim answered.
The soldiers ran back to the steel car, and one of them waved towards the engines. Although unseen, the driver must have been watching for the signal, for within seconds, the train started to move again.
As the tracks curved away from them, the two friends couldn't see how many cargo units had been attached, and soon found they couldn't see any other part of the train. Dave soon sat down with Clara, but Jim remained at the window.
He marvelled at how big the station actually was. The survivors, hiding inside the station buildings, had no Idea of the area occupied, and he could now appreciate what the soldier yesterday had meant. They couldn't guard every inch of the perimeter wall, so the best defence was to draw no attention at all. If the zombies didn't find anything interesting, they would just move on.
The amount of noise being generated now though, made him wonder about that philosophy. Surely they couldn't hide a train, let alone three of them.
“You're doing it again!” Dave said.
“You know me too well” he laughed back in response.
The train slowed down to a crawl, and loud metallic bangs rang through the compartments.
Gunfire exploded up towards the front of the train, and then the deep throaty rumbles of the two massive engines could be felt. With several jerks and jolts
the train started to pick up speed. Now all three of them were glued to the barred window, along with the other soldiers inside the carriage.
They could see the barrels of the heavy machine guns firing out into the distance, more and more starting to fire, as the train passed through a set of narrow wooden gates. Soldiers mounted in high towers had already joined the onslaught, and although they couldn't see the targets, the amount of ammunition being used, was a definite indication of a large group.
The front of the train was now through the gates, and the friends could see a steady shower of debris flying in all directions. It was impossible to identify what was being flung around, as their carriage hadn't yet reached the gates.
“Go on the flail!” shouted a young soldier from the front of the compartment.
The three friends remained at the windows, a morbid fascination filling each of them.
The flail was a heavy metal steel roller fitted to the front of the train. Thick heavy chains were fitted, hanging loosely, and the whole construction was quickly rotating just above ground level. It had originally been developed to clear paths through mine fields, but this worked just as well.
The effects of this device were devastating.
No amount of zombies could stop the spinning chains. The three foot long lengths carved a train wide gap through the thousands of zombies gathered around the entrance. Every part of the shredded figures flew into the air, covering the masses behind them. The unidentified debris was now visible.
Skin, bones, hair and clothing, nothing would slow down the flail, the power of the engines, and the sheer violence of the chains ensured the continued motion of the train. The soldiers had also kept up a constant barrage, their mounted machine guns spewing flames and hot bullets into the sea of zombies. It was hard to see if the combination was having an effect, but as this was the second train, you could only imagine at the size of the crowd John's train had encountered.
Jim stood in a shocked silence, eyes wide and his lower lip was trembling, images of the undead flying away from the shredding machine captivating him. Clara quietly cried on the floor. Dave just stared impassively, his unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
The soldiers in their carriage started cheering, and the crowd was thinning out. The work of the machine guns could now be seen. No head shots were being sought, if it was undead, it was a target. The machine guns succeeded in cutting the bodies into pieces. Thirty millimetre rounds find no resistance when hitting a human body, and these were shattering those already in a poor condition. Arms and legs were smashed by the gunfire. Heads exploded, disappearing into dirty brown clouds, yet more pushed from the back.
The train continued through the mass, the flail doing it's job effortlessly, nothing could stand up to its chains, and the zombies knew nothing about hiding or running away. They just carried on reaching for the carriages, knowing food was hiding inside.
Jim, Dave and Clara had all seen enough. No more could they watch the destruction unfolding. Zombies or not, this looked like a machine in action, programmed to shred bodies, and it was a well built machine, no difference was found between male or female, adult or child. If the chains hit it, the zombie was torn to pieces.
The pungent stench of battle had started to permeate the air. The reek of decomposing flesh had been scattered in every direction, the sharp smell of cordite added to the mix, Clara couldn't stop herself from vomiting.
Dave rubbed her back silently, and Jim sat with his back to the windows, eyes closed and tears streaming down his face. What if he reached Manchester and found Jess like that?, would he let the flail hit her? Could he?, his mind was moving so fast, he almost felt dizzy.
The speed of the train steadily increased, and the guns started to fall silent.
None of them attempted to look out of the windows. Clara and Dave had fallen asleep, her head on his lap, and Jim just sat looking at the metal lined floor. The soldiers in the compartment, were exchanging stories on the battle.
It didn't seem to matter that they had all been present, each one had a different tale to tell. Loud metallic thuds could be heard, the steel gun ports slamming closed, and the soldiers were doing their best to find somewhere comfortable. Jim almost hated the soldiers. He felt as though they had forgotten where the zombies had come from. Each and everyone of them had been someone's mother or father, sister or brother. Seeing the machine guns in action had been bad enough, but the flail... he couldn't erase the image of the flakes of skin, the tufts of hair that had been thrown around, the dull brown cloud created by the violence of the steel chains. He was smart enough to know the path had to be cleared, but he could never have imagined anything like that.
Gradually the air cleared. The smell of decomposition had eased, and the normal sounds of a train in motion took over.
The gentle rocking and the sight of Dave and Clara sleeping was strangely hypnotic. Jim marvelled at how two people, so unalike could find each other in this god awful mess. Clara had witnessed such horror, yet she still retained her humanity, and Dave had effortlessly shared his confidence with the people he had met. Jim knew how Clara felt, he knew Dave would get him to Jess. The cheeky Mancunian was going home, that's what he had said. He knew Dave would find Jess, he just hoped she was still alive.